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Time to Gear Up for NaNoWriMo 2011

Time to Gear Up for NaNoWriMo 2011

    National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for all you crazy kids, starts today. Mike wrote yesterday about how to be mentally ready for NaNoWriMo, giving you the mindset to succeed. But what about the tools? Here is what gear you can use to get your 50k words down this November.

    The Shortlist

    Here are some of the great writing tools that I can’t recommend enough. These include tools for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android.

    Evernote

    Evernote is the much-loved ubiquitous note taking, writing, and personal memory database tool that is used by millions on almost all platforms. Hell, they even have a version for the dying WebOS.

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    Anyways, Evernote provides the user with reliable syncing and ways for you to save photos and even voice notes to keep you going when writing this month.

    Simplenote

    If you don’t like the rich text-ness of Evernote, then Simplenote may be the tool for you to use this month. Simplenote is a plain text syncing service that can be used on the web, iOS, and Android. You can create any number of notes and tag them. Pretty simple.

    My only gripe is no “offline” access like you get with Evernote on the desktop.

    Text files coupled with Dropbox

    This has been my staple way of doing things for the last year or so on my iOS devices, Mac, Windows, and even sometimes Android. Basically using a simple text editor that allows access to a folder or set of folders in your Dropbox account.

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    So get yourself a Dropbox account (as if you don’t already have one) and try out one of these great plain text editing apps:

    Mac: Notational Velocity, NValt, BBEdit, TextWrangler, WriteRoom, Coda, Byword, iA Writer, macvim, TextEdit

    Windows: Notepad++, TextPad, E Text Editor, UltraEdit, Sublime Text 2, vim

    iOS: Elements, Notesy, PlainText, Nebulous Notes

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    Android: Epistle, Simple Notepad

    Scrivener

    And of course we can’t forget about using Scrivener, one of the best tools for planning, researching, and constructing long documents. Scrivener was first available only for Mac, but now you can get yourself a Windows copy (currently in beta). Scrivener is probably the tool that I will be using starting my 50k word journey tomorrow.

    Nice thing about Scrivener is that if you download it tomorrow you can get a 30 day trial which is just enough time to finish your work. As an added bonus, Literature and Latte (the company that makes Scrivener) will offer all NaNoWriMo “Winners” a 50% discount after they complete their 50k words. Nice touch.

    Tactical Tools

    So, you got your favorite text editor now and our ready to type your way to 50k. But, NaNoWrimo isn’t all about just text editors and typing. You need to have some strategies to complete your novel.

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    Timers

    Sometimes one of the best ways to hunker down and get some writing done is promising yourself to write for a certain amount of time. You can use some timers to keep track of your time and also force yourself to write.

    Probably one of the best ones is the free Adobe Air app focus booster because of its ease of use and simple interface. You can even try out focus booster – live if you don’t want to download anything. It is more of a Pomodoro technique tool, but you don’t have to buy into that idea to get some utility out of it.

    Reminders and motivation

    I am a huge fan of the site 750words.com and have used it over the past few months for motivation in writing. If you are in the NaNoWriMo running you will have to write 1667 words per day to get to your 50k. Having a site like 750words send you email nudges as well as a running word count at the bottom of your daily writing can definitely keep you motivated.

    Also, if you are feeling like your plot is running out of steam or that there is no way in hell that you can make it, you can always check out the NaNoWriMo forums for some inspiration. There is nothing better than looking through the forums and reading what some of these intelligent writers do to stay motivated and on point. And, if you have any advice to give to struggling writers, this is a good place to do it.

    So, good luck in your 50k word adventure this November. Remember, there is no such thing as writer’s block. Keep your fingers moving and use some of the tips and tricks that we have provided you to make your way through this year’s NaNoWriMo.

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    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a daily plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a time limit to each task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    Google Calendar is great – I use it. It’s even better if you can sync it to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are.

    Here’s more tips about how to use calendar for better time management: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    Check out these Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools and pick the ones that fit your needs.

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    5. Know your deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to be early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time box your activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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    9. Have a clock visibly placed before you

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set reminders 15 minutes before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    Find out more here about how reminders help you remember everything.

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track your time spent

    Egg Timer is a simple online countdown timer. You key in the amount of time you want it to track (example: “30 minutes”, “1 hour”) and it’ll count down in the background. When the time is up,the timer will beep. Great way to be aware of your time spent.

    But besides Egg Timer, you can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that fits yourself the best.

    14. Don’t fuss about unimportant details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch similar tasks together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate your time wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off when you need to

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave buffer time in-between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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